Factory evicts tenants

SPOKANE - Low income and mentally ill residents of a downtown building are upset they are being evicted to make room for a Blu-ray Disc factory.

The 45 residents of the Commercial Building will get federal vouchers to subsidize new, one-room apartments, said Steve Cervantes, executive director of Northeast Washington Housing Solutions.

BlueRay Technologies Inc., of Valencia, Calif., is converting the old three-story building into a $12 million plant to make discs, a next-generation optical disc format to record, rewrite and play high-definition video.

"The two can't coexist in an environment like that; as much as we would have liked it to, it just wouldn't have worked," said Lon Gibby, president of Spokane Valley-based Gibby Media Group, which will oversee the plant for BlueRay.

Residents will move out as soon as they find new accommodations.

"It's kind of stressful," said Garry Campbell, 54. He lived on the streets before moving in.

"I don't want to wind up there again. Although it's summer, it's still no fun," he said, adding that local homeless missions are "depressing."

The company has purchased equipment, and construction will start as soon as building permits are ready, Gibby said.

If work isn't done soon, the company could miss the Christmas production window, he said.

"The sooner it opens, the better," Gibby said.

Gibby said BlueRay representatives met with government agencies and felt comfortable with the relocations.

Building residents received a letter Wednesday from Housing Solutions saying "a team of many organizations are working together for a smooth transition and relocation process for you."

The vouchers will be permanent and will allow residents to upgrade from shared living areas to individual apartments, Cervantes said.

"The downside is, yes they have to move," he said. "The positive side is they can upgrade their environment, and hopefully upgrade other opportunities for them."

Hope Partners, an in-house mental health and substance abuse counseling service, will need to move by June 30, said operator Jim Delegans.

Hope Partners might move to the Spokane Mental Health facility, Delegans said.

Delegans called the change a "loss of a community resource."

"Unfortunately, there are those in the community who describe the Commercial Building as a blight in the First Avenue neighborhood," he said. "But I don't think gentrification is a solution for urban renewal."